Unexpectedly, the Emperor’s uneasiness got the better of him.
A few days after Situ’s demotion, which appeared like a promotion on the surface, some officials already started to submit memorials to impeach the former general of the Northern Army, Gao Ming, the General of the Left, Zhang Xin, and the General of the Right, Cheng Shifei for accepting bribes and lining their own pockets, embezzling the funds and provisions for the troops, abusing the military law and dominating the whole area as their own fiefdom. They were also accused of scourging the commoners and being powerless in controlling the general situation.
This was the first time someone had impeached the three generals ever since they were stationed in the North.
At first, the Emperor pretended to leave the matter aside, appearing as if he had utter trust in the Northern Army. Upon seeing this, the officials, who were used to seeing his unpredictable mood and vicious ways of handling things the past few days, were left baffled.
The second time those few officials submitted their memorials, the Emperor reprimanded them and explicitly stated that he trusted the Northern Army and the three generals.
The third time, the Emperor’s expression dimmed and he immediately demanded someone to investigate this matter thoroughly, stating that he would definitely not tolerate evildoers. His rapid mood change astounded the officials, leaving them on tenterhooks.
Although the ones who were impeached were the three generals of the North, the officials’ gazes were all placed on the meritorious Situ. Everyone understood that this was equivalent to impeaching Situ. It just depended on whether they were willing to tread on this muddy water and involve themselves in this mess.
“Your Majesty, I feel that this matter shouldn’t be settled just based on a few words. After all, those generals are stationed far away in the deserts of the North, toiling and contributing many meritorious deeds by defending our borders. They are strict and impartial in managing the troops, so it’s inevitable that they will offend some vile people. May I request for Your Majesty to investigate this matter thoroughly and fairly to avoid misunderstandings.”
The one who stepped forward to speak was Chamberlain Feng. Many officials already had a tacit understanding of the relationship between Situ and Chamberlain Feng’s daughter, Feng Luodi. Although they hadn’t reached the stage of discussing marriage, their love story had already spread throughout the whole kingdom.
Situ was deeply moved by his actions. Back then, Chamberlain Feng prohibited Feng Luodi from getting close to him in every possible way. Yet, now he was the first one to step out and speak up for him. Although Chamberlain Feng’s attitude towards him had changed a little bit too fast, it was still a change that he was satisfied with.
Upon seeing Chamberlain Feng, the Emperor recalled that one time when Feng Luodi adamantly stood her ground in the Imperial Study and rejected the marriage to the son of the Huaiyang Commandery Prince. Consequently, he also recalled Situ rejecting his proposal to wed his precious daughter, the Fifth Princess. It was all thanks to these people that his precious daughter was married off to that far away place, Ailao.
The old Emperor seemed to have forgotten all the mistakes Concubine Lan’s clan had committed. At this moment, his mind was filled to the brim with Situ’s ‘mistakes’. That way, he could punish him for a crime.
“What Chamberlain Feng has said makes sense. It’s just that, ever since the Xuan Kingdom was founded; when five or more officials submit memorials regarding the same matter, it’s a must to file the case for investigation. This rule cannot be abrogated.”
At this moment, the Emperor’s expression was no longer calm and unpredictable. Naturally, he didn’t seem like the same strict and partial person who used to govern the Xuan Kingdom with a gentle smile tugged at his lips.
Deterioration with age and indisposition had taken away many things from him, including his rationality and lucidity.
Regardless of whether the officials were upright or obsequious, it was of utmost importance for them to have a basic understanding of the Emperor’s thoughts. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to continue mingling in officialdom. Hence, as soon as the Emperor spoke, many officials lowered their heads and assented in succession.
“Your Majesty’s words are enlightening.”
The Emperor’s attitude towards the case hinted that he wasn’t going to investigate the three generals. Instead, he was directly determining the crimes of the three generals.
The Left- and Right Minister wanted to voice out their opinions, but they were silenced by the Emperor’s hostile glare, which conveyed a warning and, at the same time, his absolute authority. It was an expression they had never seen before.
Sigh…they were both veterans who had experienced two reigns, yet there was nothing they could do.
Amidst the silence, someone eventually spoke up, it was the First Prince. He stepped forward under the Emperor’s scorching gaze.
The Emperor immediately said, “My imperial son, are you saying that what I have said is wrong? The policies targetting scholars, artisans, farmer and merchants that you have proposed recently is extremely to my liking. I haven’t even rewarded you yet, so why are you in such a hurry?”
What he’d said completely circumvented the First Prince’s raised topic. This was enough to let the officials, including the First Prince, understand the underlying meaning behind his words.
Even though the First Prince wasn’t brought up beside the Emperor, he was aware of his Imperial Father’s temperament. He also knew how important Situ was to him; they were friends and comrade-in-arms, who couldn’t make do without the other.
“What Imperial Father has said is naturally correct.” The First Prince unhurriedly spoke, careful with his words.
“However, I feel that the three generals, notably the General of the Left who defends the Yunzhong Pass, have all grown up in the barracks since they were young and have decades of experience in fighting on the battlefield. Logically speaking, since they were impeached this time, this case should be investigated thoroughly. However, I feel that this case shouldn’t be carried out with great fanfare. Not only would this upset the spirit of the Northern Army, but I’m afraid that the Huns and those other ambitious countries would exploit this opportunity to launch an attack.”
Speaking up till here, the Emperor’s expression remained indecipherable.
The First Prince then continued, “We naturally need to investigate. It is a priority to appoint someone to start the investigation, and at the same time, it is important to know how to proceed with this case. If we merely look for evidence without giving them a chance for an explanation, this would only cause an upheaval amongst the citizens and the army, ultimately leading to chaos in our nation.”
The officials stared at the First Prince, who appeared gentle and tranquil, in shock because when the latter said these words, he actually radiated a domineering aura.
Seeing that the Emperor was about to be persuaded by his Imperial Brother, the Eighth Prince hastily stepped forward and said, “Imperial Father, I think so too. Since the three generals have worked hard and contributed many meritorious deeds, the court shouldn’t treat them unfairly. We should certainly investigate properly and the investigation must be done covertly.”
There was an overtone in the Eighth Prince’s words, which made the slightly eased Emperor become enraged again.
The First Prince was quick-witted and hastily added, “Imperial Father, what Imperial Eighth Brother has said makes a lot of sense. I recommend sending Imperial Eighth Brother to the deserts of the North to investigate this matter. I believe that he would definitely not disappoint Imperial Father and investigate this matter properly and covertly.”
These words made the Eighth Prince gnashed his teeth in silence. At this crucial moment, the person who leaves Chang’an first would lose the decisive opportunity. Otherwise, he also didn’t have to exert himself to prevent the First Prince from returning to Chang’an. He really hadn’t expected that Situ, who’d maintained a neutral stance all this while, was actually standing on the First Prince’s side. In this case, all the more he couldn’t let Duke of Anping stay.
He’s Imperial Father’s son, so how could he not understand his Imperial Father’s thoughts?
The Emperor seemed to be very satisfied with this suggestion, so without further ado, he directly issued the command with no room for debate, not giving the Eight Prince the slightest chance to reverse the situation.
The Eighth Prince could only keep his grievances to himself. When he walked back to his spot, he noticed the Eleventh Prince smiling complacently at him and the anger in his heart ignited again. Whether it was him or the First Prince, they were both the Eleventh Prince’s stepping stone. He could only blame himself for being too greedy and wanting to settle these two people in one fell swoop.
During the court assembly, Situ didn’t utter a single word. He didn’t defend his comrades in arms who went through thick and thin with him and didn’t take the initiative to clear himself of suspicion. His behaviour made the Emperor feel restless.
His Majesty returned to the Imperial Study and sat on the Imperial Throne, sneering at himself. He's the Emperor. He's the one who reigns supreme. Was there a need for him to feel uneasy and apprehensive?
He must get rid of this Northern Army General at all costs!
Palace Attendant Yu stood somewhere not far away and stared at the Emperor, who’d seemingly turned into an entirely different person, in surprise. Immediately after that, he lowered his head and concealed the surprised look in his eyes. He’d initially thought that His Majesty had wanted to pave the way for the Eleventh Prince but why did it now seem like His Majesty was disrupting the order in court?
This was His Majesty’s own kingdom, so why was he doing that?
Come to think of it, His Majesty’s illness had been relapsing repeatedly for no reason. There was something fishy about this. The more Palace Attendant Yu thought about it, the more terrified he became, his thoughts frantic.
Just when the Eighth Prince was about to leave Chang’an to head for the deserts of the North, the Emperor issued another decree to let the childless Concubine Hui adopt the First Prince.
Concubine Hui was the daughter of the Minister of the Imperial Clan. She was a concubine second only to Concubine Yao and Concubine Shu, the mother of the Seventh Prince and Eighth Prince. As she was dignified and virtuous, she was bestowed the title ‘Concubine Hui’.
No officials bothered about the First Prince’s return to Chang’an because he had no maternal clan supporting him. Now that he’d received the support of the officials and had a maternal clan backing him up, it could be said that he was flushed with success.
However, the First Prince didn’t think in this manner. His point of view was that His Majesty was intentionally strengthening his power so that he would have a life-and-death struggle with the Eighth Prince. Then, the Eleventh Prince would be the third party that reaps the benefits after both of them were exhausted from their fight. They are all sons from the same father but why was the difference in treatment so much?
No one could answer the First Prince’s doubts. Situ and Gan Qingjia had constantly been devising plans in recent days. The two of them would settle everything in the dark, while all he had to do was to serve the people and win the approval of the officials. This was what they had agreed on since the beginning.
At this moment, the First Prince had completely forgotten about Xue Yiqi who had found a stable footing in the Imperial Army. Xue Yiqi had also done many things for him recently but he was overlooked because of Shangguan Yan.
Shangguan Yan clung onto Xue Yiqi like glue, resulting in Xue Yiqi being unable to spare time for other tasks. Not only was he unable to meet up with his brothers, but he was also unable to meet his future sovereign.
Shangguan Yan, on the other hand, didn’t think it was a problem. The sovereign and the dynasty were things that constantly changed over time. What remained the same were usually the officials and the citizens.
Today, Xue Yiqi had just exited his newly constructed residence when a woman dressed in bright red attire and an outer robe embroidered with white camellias came greeting him. For a moment, he thought that the person he saw was Qi Jianqiu, the woman he was foolishly in love with in the past. However, she’d become the wife of his respected Third Elder Brother.
But the person before him was obviously not Qi Jianqiu. Qi Jianqiu liked to smile, it was the kind of smile that showed that she was up to mischief while radiating confidence. She was like a pure yet graceful white camellia.
On the other hand, Shangguan Yan was also a confident woman, but her confidence carried a trace of evil tendencies with it. She also liked to smile, but it was one filled with arrogance, which looked down on everyone. She was also a solemn, formidable woman who was blood-thirsty to the point that made one uneasy. She was like a rose with thorns. She was indeed very beautiful but if one was careless, it would be fatal.
Xue Yiqi also didn’t understand why so many adjectives popped up in his mind as he thought of Shangguan Yan. But he didn’t like to be forced by others nor this woman who stuck to him like glue, causing him to be laughed at by many people.
Even so, he was unable to harden his heart to chase her away. If back then, he’d also pestered that person this much, would the outcome have been different?
Shangguan Yan ran to Xue Yiqi with delight written all over her face, but what came into view was Xue Yiqi’s indifferent expression. Upon seeing this, a slight piercing pain instantly shot to her heart. It didn’t matter…
Shangguan Yan kept a beautiful smile tugged at her lips and followed behind Xue Yiqi. “You haven’t eaten breakfast yet, right? I know that the south streets of Chang’an have a shop that sells Steamed Pork and Crab Roe Bun. It’s the real thing and the taste is also very good. Let’s go try it together.”
“I’m sorry. Miss Shangguan, I still have many official affairs to tend to, so I won’t be able to accompany you today,” Xue Yiqi stared ahead and said.
The corners of Shangguan Yan’s mouth twitched, but she didn’t give up.
“Eating breakfast doesn’t take a lot of time. It wouldn’t delay your official duties.”
Xue Yiqi was probably triggered by these two words. On top of that, the situation in Chang’an was getting increasingly tense, and he was quite worried about Situ. Thus, his tone carried a hint of anger as he stopped in his tracks and shot a scorching glance at Shangguan Yan, catching the latter by surprise.
“Miss Shangguan sure is forgetful. You have already delayed many of my official duties these past few days.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Rakumon | TLC: Yuna
Hi everyone, Yuna here~~ Nice to meet you all! As Whale went MIA, I've taken over TOMAS and from today on, I will be publishing a chapter daily.
The new chapters can be expected between 2-3PM (UTC+2)
Please enjoy this chappie for now (^_^)